We had the good fortune of connecting with Meka Tome and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Meka, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Art and photography have always been a large part of my life. To me, life is about fulfillment and passion, which go hand in hand with empowerment. Photography can communicate in a way that no other medium can; by capturing real, fleeting moments, it has the innate ability to empower people–models, clients, subjects, and photographers alike.
My thought process behind starting my own business in photography and art is the pursuit of empowerment through capturing the beauty of each person as they are, showing what people may not normally notice, and sharing stories that should be heard.
After photographing a live show consisting of a variety of performers, one of them let me know that the photographs of their set brought them to tears, as they had never previously had a way to look back on the joy they brought to their audiences’ faces. Moments as simple and impactful as that are why I do what I do.
As for my art practice, the stories I tend to tell are about emotion. I have been working to create immersive experiences from my own feelings to help me better understand them. This process of introspection and sharing deep feelings with others allows me the empowerment I need to help others find that too, through both the art I share and the photographs I am hired to capture for others.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Recently I have begun to create experiential works and explore blurring boundaries that delineate the metaphor from the lived experience. I am interested in feelings and creating art that is activated by the viewer, time, and the environment.
Sitting at home in 2020, I began to question what distinguishes living from existing, which ended up becoming a project called “Is This Living?” in which I took an apple into the darkroom, printed a photograph of an eye on it, and documented it as it rotted. I watched the eye age as the surface of the apple wrinkled, then finally become engulfed by new growth that prevented the eye from seeing or being seen. While I don’t have an answer to the title, this project became about the process of documenting it, which allowed me a daily moment to process all that was going on in the world around me.
In May of this year I created an installation called “Wading”, which incorporated projection and hanging plexiglass prints. In the prints, turbulent bubbles surround outstretched arms. Just like the prints, the projections contain more bubbles that sit in artificial, silent stillness. The project itself initially came from a place of trying to understand depression from a metaphorical standpoint, which it successfully helped me see. But also, it ultimately became a very calm and tranquil experience in person. It became a place of comfort and play, and watching people interact with it and activate the space by creating silhouetted movement in the projections, is such a joy and a direction I want to continue to explore.
The process of art for me is not always easy, but it is a tool for introspection and learning. I am constantly studying my own feelings through art, and the end result is always incredibly empowering. That, paired with the introspective process, allows me a way to continue to learn and grow personally.
A few things I have learned throughout the years that I always keep close to my heart are: have empathy, follow your artistic intuition even if you don’t know why in the moment, retain your agency, and always ask questions.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
The Museum of Jurassic Technology is an absolute must. After that, I would love to take them on a picnic in Franklin Canyon Park to spend some time with the birds and turtles at the reservoir! A hike in Griffith Park culminating in a visit to the Griffith Observatory would definitely be on that list as well. The used bookstore at the Beverly Hills Public Library always has a wonderful selection of art books, and the Los Angeles Central Library is another must-see.
As for food, I can never go wrong with Native Foods, Tatsu Ramen, Monty’s Good Burger, and Veggie Grill.
I was only able to go to a gastropub called The One Up once before the pandemic hit, but I quickly fell in love with it too!
We might also hunt down a couple food trucks like Okamoto Kitchen and Plant Power Fast Food.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am today without all the love, support, and encouragement from my community, family, and friends.
Just some of the people I have to thank in particular are:
-Elisa Wax for all her guidance and support.
-Steve Moulton for being a fantastic printer and teacher.
-Christopher Noon for being a wonderful friend, fellow artist, and model who has helped me loosen up and experiment photographically.
-Jeff Leavitt for being a great artistic inspiration and showing me what it’s like on the other side of the camera.
-Tuesday Thomas and Cyrus Naderpour for taking a chance on me photographing Freak Show LA, which gave me vital experience.
-Sarah Shulkind and my mom, Mitra Nehorai for believing in me and nudging me to attend art school.
-Jennifer Moon for showing me the validity of my pursuit and that I do have a place in the art world.
-Asher Hartman for showing me the importance of intuition in art.
-Sean Blocklin and Shane King for both being amazing photographers to learn from and with.
-My peers at Otis College of Art and Design including, but not limited to, Kate Schofield and Jelly Baty for their invaluable insight and support.
-Austin Tinoco for always supporting me, helping me work through ideas, and even modeling for me when I need it!
Lastly, my sister, Makaya Tome who always helps me keep my head straight, encourages me, and nudges me out of my comfort zone to help me in my efforts and be the best artist I can be.
Other: Client Instagram: @mekatomephotography “Is This Living?” time-lapse: https://vimeo.com/542524403